CNA organization instills sense of pride in frontline caregivers

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Alice Zahnow
Alice Zahnow
Before writing this piece I wanted a good definition of merit, one that would best describe why the National Association of Health Care Assistants (NAHCA) is so important to those working in long-term care facilities. The word merit means value, excellence or superior quality. All of these words describe why NAHCA means so much to the 20,000 healthcare assistants in 29 states who are a part of this wonderful organization.

NAHCA is headed by a group of people who are totally dedicated to the quality of care for our elderly and those who care for them. Lori Porter, Lisa Cantrell and their team have taken on the job of teaching frontline workers that they are a valued member of the healthcare profession.

For too long we, as CNAs, have been put down and called things like “butt wipers” and “a dime a dozen.”  I don't know of too many people who can maintain a positive attitude under those circumstances. With the help of our leaders an astonishing thing happened: We learned to believe in something and believe in ourselves. Our attitudes changed. We actually loved coming to work. The quality of care improved and a sense of pride became part of our lives.

I asked some of my fellow members of NAHCA to share what they thought the merits were and they said:

“Here is what I get or the merits I receive from NAHCA. I myself have become a better CNA in the workplace and in the life I have each and every day. Becoming a better person to those I care for and those co-workers I see each day while I am there. It has made a different kind of leader out of me in the ways of our profession through the work I do when I come into the facility. It has given me the knowledge to give to others in our professional life as CNAs. I have emerged into a person that is not the low man but part of a team that does come to me for information and the know how to make us better. I feel by doing this and though out the education that I have received through NAHCA, I can be a better-educated, informed individual through this training.”
 —Karon Schmidt

“My benefits are that NAHCA teaches me how to deal with the real everyday situations. Discussion groups help to vent or bring new ideas.”

“Because our aides have learned from NAHCA that they are not the bottom of the pole, you can see a difference in them. They seem more confident and feel like they do make a difference in the lives of their residents. Because we have been taught to intermingle with other departments to make a more team type effort has also helped. We have learned to take time out and do some fun things with everyone and mostly our residents, which has really made a difference. It has given an opportunity to see the residents on a different side other than the day-to-day routine care given. Even for the staff from other departments because we getting them more involved now too. It certainly can lower the stress levels at times too. Our residents seem a lot happier, making comments like gee I haven't had this much fun since whenever or I didn't think we could do stuff like this. I really like it here and then to be able to hear them tell their families or get you involved with that. This type of stuff has really made a difference for us."
—Deb Pitts, CNA

“I feel it benefits everyone in the long-term care, not sure about others never talked to many that work elsewhere. I get a lot from it how to care better, how to trust better and most of all how important I am to the people I take care of and the career I chose.”
—Michelle Smith, CNA

“I have learned that I am important, that my job is more than a paycheck. How to better care for my residents, how to better myself, who I am, how to become a team player and how to accept and embrace change.”
—Niccole Weaver, CNA

To see the involvement in facilities and community events by NAHCA members is awesome. There is a pride in the air that is becoming contagious and we love every minute. As you can see, the self-esteem that is given to us by NAHCA has improved how we look at ourselves and the care we provide to our residents. Facilities that sponsor membership for their CNAs and frontline caregivers could not pick a more meaningful gift of appreciation and professional recognition.

Bill Mathies, president of SunBridge Healthcare Corporation, sponsors membership for all 9,500 of his CNAs, and when asked why he stated:

“First of all, it's an opportunity to show our appreciation to our CNAs, who day in and day out, give so much to our customers. They play such an important role in the lives of our residents.  NAHCA gives them a vehicle to expand their knowledge, share experiences and grow as caregivers. I also think that NAHCA brings a strong level of recognition to a very important position within our healthcare centers. Bottom line supporting our CNAs in this association was the right thing to do!”

What do American's want in their old age? The knowledge that qualified, caring, respecting caregivers will be available to care for them. There is no better means to ensure this need is met than to embrace and invest in a professional association of and for nursing assistants where care excellence is the goal.
Alice Zahnow is vice chair of the National Steering Committee of the National Association of Health Care Assistants. This year she made two trips to Washington D.C to speak with senators and representatives from Michigan about the proposed Medicare/Medicaid cuts. As of Oct. 15, 2008, she started working in home healthcare as a certified nursing assistant. From September 1990 to August 2008, Zahnow worked at Lapeer County Medical Care Facility in Michigan as a CNA.


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